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THE POTTER’S POWER OVER THE CLAY
Jeremiah 18:6. O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel.
WHILE the grandeur of the heavenly bodies fills us with a sense of our own insignificance [Note: Psalms 8:3-4.], we may learn many instructive lessons from the meanest creatures upon earth. The instinctive wisdom of the crane or swallow, the provident care of the ant, and the grateful acknowledgments of the ox and ass, are proposed to us as models for our imitation [Note: Jeremiah 8:7. Proverbs 6:6-8, Isaiah 1:3.]. Nor are works of art less capable of suggesting useful hints to a reflecting mind. In the passage before us the prophet was commanded to observe a potter forming his vessels, and to declare to the Jews that they were, notwithstanding all their boasted strength, as much subject to the will of God as the clay was to the potter’s will. To illustrate this we shall shew,
The power of God over us—
We can scarcely conceive any greater power than the potter has over the clay. He forms, or mars, or varies the shape of his vessels, as he pleases. Such is God’s power over us,
[Every man is altogether in the hands of God. Our bodies are instantly brought low, when he sends a fierce disease to prey upon them. Nor can the physician’s aid profit us, till he be pleased to bless the means prescribed [Note: Job 33:19-25.] Our souls are also entirely dependent upon him. When his time is come, the obdurate relent, the dead arise, the drooping are comforted, and the weak established. Till then, the Bible is a sealed book, and the most faithful ministers are only as sounding brass [Note: Psalms 107:12-20.].]
In our collective capacity—
[The most flourishing families, how soon are they brought low! And how speedily may they be restored to their former prosperity [Note: Job 1:18-19; Job 42:12-13.]! Nor are the most powerful kingdoms less at his disposal. He can raise a mighty empire from the most contemptible beginnings [Note: Isaiah 51:1-2.Deuteronomy 7:7; Deuteronomy 7:7.], or reduce it to utter ruin in a single hour [Note: 2 Kings 19:35.Exodus 14:28; Exodus 14:28. If this be the subject of a Fast Sermon, the circumstances of the nation may properly be adverted to in this place, and the duties inculcated under the second head must have a national, as well as personal bearing.]. As the smallest motion of the finger suffices to effect any change upon the potter’s clay, so the secret volition of the Almighty operates with irresistible energy through the whole creation.]
This truth being universally admitted, we shall proceed to shew,
What effect the consideration of it should produce upon us—
Every perfection of the Deity should occasion some correspondent emotion in our hearts. The thought of his unbounded power over us should produce in us,
A holy fear—
[What our deserts are, both individually and collectively, none can doubt. To repent then of all our sins, and to turn to the Lord with all our hearts, is our first duty. This is the special point inculcated on the Jewish nation by God himself [Note: Read ver. 7–10 and mark emphatically ver. 11.]. And where is the individual who does not feel the necessity of having it impressed on his own mind? Know then, all of you, that you are at this instant preparing either for heaven or for hell. If in your final condition you are “vessels unto dishonour,” the fault will be your own. If happily you prove vessels of honour, it will be solely in consequence of God’s electing love [Note: Acts 9:15.], and his new-creating power [Note: Romans 9:21-23. Distinguish between κατηρτισμέναby themselves, and God’s agency in ἃ προητοίμασεν.]. Cry then mightily to Goof to “accomplish for you and in you all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.”]
A meek submission—
[God best knows how to effect in you the purposes of his grace. For the most part he makes use of afflictive dispensations for our good; and, of whatever kind they be, we can have no just reason to complain. If the clay has no right to complain of the potter who forms of it a vessel such as he himself pleases, much less can “a living man,” who is out of hell, have right, under any circumstances, to “complain” of God [Note: Isaiah 45:9. with Romans 9:19-20.]. Under every trial, of whatever kind it be, we should say, “It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good.”]
A humble trust—
[If only we lie as clay in his hands, we have nothing to fear [Note: Isaiah 51:12-13.]. Both men and devils are with him but as an axe or saw, with which he accomplishes his own purposes [Note: Isaiah 10:15.]. We have only to commit ourselves to him, and we shall have his work perfected in our hearts, and be made vessels of honour meet for the Master’s use [Note: 2 Timothy 2:20-21.]. How weak soever, or worthless we be, God will glorify himself in our complete salvation [Note: Isaiah 40:27-31.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Jeremiah 18". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany